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2024 | WINTER

The Law Enforcement Leadership Pipeline

Developmental Passages Part 3 of 3

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Dr. Marshall Jones


2024 | WINTER

The Law Enforcement Leadership Pipeline

Developmental Passages Part 3 of 3

Dr. Marshall Jones

This is the third part of the series exploring the Law Enforcement Leadership Pipeline (LELP). This installment concludes by exploring the various passages of the leadership pipeline and provides actionable interventions that can increase leadership development. Part 1 of this series explored the overall model, research, and importance of deliberate actions to build and maintain a culture and organization efficient at leadership, followership, and development. Part 2 explored the various components of the agency “culture tanks” that impact agency culture and agency processes, with a specific focus on field training. These can either be positive “fuel tanks” that work toward developing our people or “septic tanks” filled with toxic and contagious behaviors that hinder followership and lead to poor supervision and management 


LELP Part 3 Figure 1

(Figure 1)


With the wave of expected, unexpected, and early retirements as well as historical turnover, agencies must be constantly monitoring their succession management process and develop critical talent. As part of this process, it is important for agencies to maintain a focus on both sworn and professional staff. Agencies often compare developmental opportunities and processes between sworn and professional staff. There are aspects related to leadership and followership in the LELP that possess universal application. At the same time, it is important to recognize pitfalls that lead to efforts that are akin to forcing the proverbial square peg into a smaller round hole.


New officers and employees start their careers with excitement and optimism. What causes employees’ perspective to shift from optimistic excitement to cynicism? This equation is part of the reality of the job and part of the agency culture and aspects that feed it. When fed by “fuel,” culture is a positive force, and agency developmental components support healthy followership and leadership exchanges. When culture is left unattended, poor supervision and management lead to toxic relationships, it becomes “septic” with a tank that feeds poor supervision, micromanagement, and poor job satisfaction. Left unattended this environment results in people leaving the agency. It is becoming increasingly more important for leaders to ensure the agency’s brand is rooted in the simple reality of how happy staff are with how they are treated at work, based on good supervision, and how they perceive the agency supports them.


The Initial Step in Development: Managing Ourselves

Smiling Police Chief

While this is the first step in the LELP, it is critical leaders always maintain vigilance and continually development staff. Individuals are the only person who truly knows their intent. Everyone else is left to judge others’ intent, behavior, and performance based simply on what they can observe or otherwise communicate. Because of this, leaders must continuously test their assumptions about how they present themselves.


Individuals have varying levels of ability to manage perceptions, behaviors, and emotions. Behaviors in others are reinforced by what individuals see and hear. Modeled behavior by the leader is often the strongest influence to shape expectations for standards of behavior and conduct. Performance and perceptions of self-efficacy are shaped, by not only feedback from trainers and others, but also the manner in which feedback is delivered. GenZ members, in particular, value feedback as well as trainers and supervisors who use the “tell-show-do” modeling technique (Enter, 2022).


The Leadership Pathfinding Model for Leader and Follower Development (Figure 2) offers a path that is straightforward but also allows structure for training, development, coaching, and mentoring. This model begins with the constant quest for self-awareness, which is a lifelong learning endeavor (Jones, 2019). Self-awareness is a critical step for individuals to become authentic and genuine. Those with a strong and grounded identity are perceived by others as being genuine, even with the flaws each person carries. Authenticity leads to effective communication, which, when done deliberately by leaders and supervisors, leads to the critical aspect of rapport. Rapport is the necessary ingredient for the keystone of a leader-follower relationship: trust. Trust leads to the influence necessary for positive leader and follower exchanges, which in turn lead to positive and effective teams through leader-member-exchange (LMX) and team-member-exchange (TMX).


Leadership Pathfinding Model_Figure 2

(figure 2)


Passage 1: Managing Self to Leading Another

This first passage is often the land of missed opportunity in follower and leader development. Developing supervisory skills, even in a one-on-one supervisor-subordinate relationship, is the best way for people to learn how to use power. We must all learn, sometimes painfully, that leadership requires rapport and trust to garner followership. Agencies can reap the highest return on investment (ROI) in the strategic implementation of training and development, supporting engagement, and rewarding success in passage one.  Passage one developmental opportunities for agencies to increase recognition and attention include:Leadership Pt 3 Callout Box 1


    1. Recruiters: The first people to interact with potential employees are the department’s recruiters. First impressions from these interactions create the potential candidates’ perception of the department and the work environment. Because of this, it is critical to appoint the best officers in the department to these positions. Once selected, provide each with the training to effectively interact with potential recruits personally and through social media. One approach would be to seek recruiter training not specifically designed for law enforcement.
    2. Trainers: The best way to learn a skill is to become a trainer and teach it. Skilled trainers gain valuable communication experience and improve competence and confidence. Interaction with trainers begins with orientation and continues throughout basic, field, in-service, and advanced training. While they are not perceived as supervisors, they model influence behaviors through rapport and trust that are critical for good leader-follower relationships.
    3. Field Training Officers: FTO’s are the true first-line supervisors and are the most critical position in the department. The FTO models expected behavior. Serving as a field training officer enables individuals to develop their abilities to provide directions, evaluate performance, and deliver feedback. The undeniable goal for any agency should be to provide a natural progression from developing FTO’s to becoming formal first-line supervisors.
    4. Corporals and Assistant Supervisors: Corporals and assistant supervisor roles vary among agencies, from “hard” ranks to rotating assignments intended as developmental opportunities. Providing opportunities for emerging supervisors to hone their leadership and followership capabilities is critical to their intentional development. Supporting assistant supervisors with training opportunities, structured coaching, mentorship opportunities, and regular feedback regarding their supervisory performance helps agencies maximize the developmental return on investment.
    5. Peer Mentors: Mentoring, on the other hand, is future-focused with their driving motivation to improve knowledge, skills, and abilities towards a future goal. Where coaching is an expected part of a supervisor-subordinate or leader-follower exchange, mentoring must be an accepted and invited interpersonal effort from both the mentee and the mentor. These relationships are not new, but recognizing the value of structured mentoring processes is becoming more commonplace in both private and public organizations. Law enforcement, as a profession, has recognized the value of formal mentoring programs in recent years (Jones, 2017; Modise et al., 2023). A 2017 study from the UK exploring mentoring in policing (Jones, 2017) identified several positive outcomes, such as improved communication and listening skills, heightened self-awareness, improved confidence, and a sense of empowerment in their job. There is improved job satisfaction when people understand how their work matters. Interacting with peers and supervisors where the focus rests on sharing and building from positive outcomes increases work satisfaction and joy (Lambert et al., 2012). Mentoring, formal or not, is a keystone of those critical relationships.
    6. Informal Leaders: Every agency has line-level members who exemplify proactive followership and exert powerful influence on their peers. Informal leaders range from the steady “big brother or sister” to valuable constructive deviants (Galperin & Burke, 2006). Jack Enter (2022) discusses the critical nature of respectful insubordination in challenging assumptions and decisions made by supervisors and managers. Agencies can proactively support and develop informal leadership by modeling behavior and reinforcing expectations that speaking up is welcomed and wanted. Members must trust the agency and their supervisors to protect them from backlash from toxic bosses.


Passage 2: Leading Another to Supervising Others 

tell me the truth

People don’t leave bad jobs; They leave bad bosses, micromanagers, and toxic cultures


Followership requires leadership; otherwise, it is a supervisor-subordinate relationship. People do not leave bad agencies; they leave bad supervisors and exasperate the recruiting epidemic. The few agencies that report positive retention attribute it to an agency culture that fosters leader and follower development. Followers report servant leaders tend to promote rapport and trust as well as a developmental attitude. The Practical Servant Leadership Model (Figure 3) reflects the strategies and behaviors found to be supportive of positive leader-follower trust and development.


Practical Servant Leadership_Figure 3

(figure 3)


Supervisors possessing poor leadership skills commonly resort to their formal authority to direct subordinates. Jones and Blackledge (2021) contend 70–80 percent of a sergeant’s time is related to leadership-oriented activities, leaving 20–30 percent to administratively aligned skills. This passage of the LELP requires agencies to and focus on training and developmental strategies to help develop critical skills, including communication, the ability to deal with conflict and address difficult subordinates, and the feedback required to develop both competence and confidence prior to being assigned to supervisory positions and entering this passage.


Agency leaders must adopt a long-term mindset. Recognize that supervisory development starts when a new hire walks in the door on their first day. Leverage all development avenues discussed in passage 1. Recognize that the new sergeant or professional staff supervisor today may be among your top candidates for lieutenant or manager in three to five years. Avoid the common pitfalls of inattention to promotional processes, promoting sworn members and leaving them in specialty units, and assuming that going from line-level to supervisor from one day to the next will continue to “work” as it may have in the past (Jones, 2022).


Passage 3: Supervising Others to Managing Supervisors 

Leadership Pt 3 Callout Box 3

Advancing from supervisor to manager is the stage where new lieutenants and professional staff managers may struggle to rebalance leadership-related functions versus administrative duties. Roles and responsibility commonly reverse those of supervisors, where 70–80 percent of duties rest on leadership ability. In this new role, most of the responsibility requires a much heavier reliance on administrative and management acumen. This change can be dramatic, even frustrating, for new lieutenants who were considered excellent sergeants based on their ability to lead, motivate, and take care of their officers. These new managers can face a common pitfall in their desire and behavior: to be constantly out with officers and get entangled in calls. While there is value in being about-and-about, managers need to accept that they are the shepherds of the entire ranch and not just one of the flock. Another common agency-induced barrier to development at this stage is promoting a sergeant to lieutenant and leaving them in a special unit, as discussed in the previous passage, ranks high on the barriers list.


Agencies must also find ways to involve mid-level managers in the business aspects of the organization. Developing awareness and understanding in budgeting processes, hiring processes, employment law, legal and civil liability, fleet management, facilities management, processes of function and staff analysis, SWOT analysis, and other aspects that prove challenging when members reach command pays significant dividends. Locate command colleges, degree programs, and national or regional programs such as FBI National Academy (FBINA), Senior Management Institute for Police (SMIP), or Southern Police Institute (SPI). Invest in sending mid-managers as they prepare for command opportunities, as opposed to waiting until after promotion.


Passage 4: Managing Supervisors to Command Division 

Leadership Pt 3 Callout Box 4


Just as lieutenants and managers can struggle to find a good balance between leadership and management skills, new commanders can also struggle to become comfortable in their new administrative role. The shift from the attitude of “getting things done” to ensuring they get done can be hard. It is important that command-level administrators recognize they must develop their managers toward promotion, where unchecked micromanagement kills both developmental opportunities and agency morale. In the absence of trust, micromanagement is commonplace and leads to “bad bosses” or even toxic relationships. Leadership and management competence developed throughout the various passages of the LELP help alleviate persistent attitudes of, “If I want it done right, I might as well do it myself.”


External networking, beyond the agency and policing, and community involvement are also critical for development at this stage. Developing an appreciation for the broader picture and interplay between the police department, other city departments, and the greater community is critical to career advancement. Some agencies take the proactive step of having command staff, and even lieutenants, join community groups, such as Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees, Rotary, or other community-based groups, to both leverage networking and community engagement.


Passage 5: Command Division to Second in Command

Female officer

A deputy chief or assistant chief is perhaps the greatest test and example of the necessary balancing act of effective followership and leadership. Strong agency culture and developmental processes help establish internal succession planning. Agencies and chiefs cannot simply leave development to chance.


Some command staff will proactively seek education, training, and developmental opportunities in a self-directed strategy to advance. It is important to coach and mentor to achieve levels of organizational maturity and differentiate these efforts as “me” or “we” driven. Proactive self-development is a strong indicator of interest but may also be a “check the boxes” approach. Perhaps the most critical indicator is observing those who constantly rise to the occasion and deal with problems that others avoid making eye contact with when discussed.


New deputy or assistant chiefs also need to recognize that they will have a new “identity” in the agency. While remaining genuine is important, they must also recognize their new organizational “identity” and recognize their role and positional power will be viewed and perceived much differently than they were in the past. Joking around with people in the agency, regardless of past relationships, can leave agency members wondering what the message was intended to communicate. The deputy chief will know the intention, but followers and subordinates can be left very confused. This can be a point in one’s career where the saying “it can be lonely at the top” becomes more appreciated.


Passage 6: Second in Command to Chief

Female police chief talking to reporters

Agencies with a strong LELP are more likely to have internal succession of police chiefs. Agencies perceived as possessing a strong and positive culture are much more likely to promote from within than agencies perceived to have organizational and cultural challenges. Internally, developing and feeding the LELP is a long-term strategy in support of proactive succession planning. Chiefs, with valued support from city managers, should capitalize on opportunities for their second in command to have opportunities to walk in the shoes of the chief. It can be just as important to the second in command to have this experience and assist when they desire to become a chief as it may be to the city to assess the potential fit of the second in command as a potential chief.


Applying the Law Enforcement Leadership Pipeline

The thin Blue Line

Succession management often fails because agencies focus on the wrong competencies, promote people before they are ready, lack transparency, or have limited or arbitrary participation (GACP, 2022). The LELP model can be used to help align culture, processes, and strategic planning into bite-size elements that can be management, implements, and developed.


Trying to shape culture and develop your agency is daunting. The tasks can be akin to eating an elephant. Where do you start? It likely does not matter, if you take it on one bite at a time. The intent of the LELP model is to make assessing, understanding, and acting with meaningful impact a one-bite-at-a-time process. Every agency is unique, but the components that feed the LELP are generalizable.  The challenge for police executives is sometimes as simple as identifying from what part of the elephant to take a bit.


Charan, R., Drotter, S., and Noel, J. (2001). The leadership pipeline: How to build the leadership powered company. Jossey-Bass.


Enter, J. (2022). Law Enforcement leadership in the midst of change: Principles that do not change. Blue 360 Media.


GACP. (2022). Staff development: Succession planning. The Georgia Police Chief, Spring, 2022.


Galperin, B. L. & Burke, R. A. (2006). Uncovering the relationship between workaholism and workplace destructive and constructive deviance: an exploratory study. Journal of Human Resource Management, 17, 331-347.


Jones, M.A. (2023). Walking the walk in developing sergeants: Take a first step. The Georgia Police Chief, Spring, 2023.


Jones, M.A. & Blackledge, J. (2021). Law enforcement leadership, management, and supervision. Blue 360 Media.


Lambert, N.M., Gwinn, A.M., Baumeister, R.E., Strachman, A., Washburn, I.J., Gable, S.L., & Fincham, F.D. (2012). A boost of positive affect: The perks of sharing positive experiences. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 24-43.


Modise, M. J., Taylor, D., & Raga, K. (2023). Institutionalizing mentoring in South African police service in South Africa. International Journal of Innovative Science and Research Technology, 8(2), 1263-1270.

Marshall Jones

Dr. Marshall Jones

Dr. Marshall Jones leverages experiences from law enforcement, consulting, coaching, training, and applied research to explore leadership, organizational, recruiting, and retention issues.  He is the co-author of the book Law Enforcement Leadership, Management, and Supervision published by Blue360 Media.

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